Sickle cell trait (HbAS) is the best-characterized genetic polymorphism known to protect against falciparum malaria. Although the protective effect of HbAS against malaria is well known, the mechanism(s) of protection remain unclear. A number of biochemical and immune-mediated mechanisms have been proposed, and it is likely that multiple complex mechanisms are responsible for the observed protection. Increased evidence for an immune component of protection as well as novel mechanisms, such as enhanced tolerance to disease mediated by HO-1 and reduced parasitic growth due to translocation of host micro-RNA into the parasite, have recently been described. A better understanding of relevant mechanisms will provide valuable insight into the host-parasite relationship, including the role of the host immune system in protection against malaria.